ELLENTON, Fla. - The Sochi Winter Olympic closing ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday, but the U.S.A. pairs figure skating team returned to the Suncoast this week.
Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay make their home on the Suncoast and train at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. ABC 7 caught up with them this week at their home rink.
Just a few weeks ago we joined the community in watching them perform their Olympic piece at their final practice, and now they are officially Olympians.
Zhang and Bartholomay won the silver medal at the National Championships in Boston back in January, and soon after they found out they would represent the United States at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
From there, the pair trained upwards of 30 hours a week at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in preparation. And now that they're back home, they tell ABC 7 it was a dream come true.
“When we walked out and the audience went crazy, I just like…my heart stopped for a second and I was like ‘oh my God, this is real life’," says Bartholomay.
They describe the emotions they felt as they performed on the Olympic rink. "It was such a calming experience, and we literally, our first practice we didn't miss a thing and we just got out and just started nailing it."
Although this was their first Olympic experience, they proved they deserved to share the rink with the best skaters in the world. "We just were going out there having our first experience at the Olympics, and just to be on the same ice as the world champions and everyone who's going for that gold medal there, it was an honor to be there," says Zhang.
The pair placed 12th in the free skate program and set a personal best score in the short program.
They were destined to be partners. Nate recalls skating once with Felicia when they were just kids at the age of 7 in New Jersey. They say during their first tryout together years later, it just felt right. "We knew that everything flowed very nicely, like the lifts went up easily. The throws clicked right away and we just knew that we could do something with what we had together as a team."
Felicia and Nate shared their Olympic journey with friends, family, and fans by tweeting and Instagramming behind the scenes pictures of their time in Sochi.
And they are grateful for all of the support from the Suncoast community. “Thank you so much, everybody for following us, for keeping up to date. The Olympics really makes you feel special, but I think that is just as special to have all of everyone behind us."
Nate and Felicia will forever be Olympians, but they are staying grounded by going about their normal lives, training at the rink daily -- and that is what they believe makes them good competitors.
So what's next for Felicia and Nathan? They say competing in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea is always a dream, but right now they are taking everything day by day and their primary focus is this upcoming season. They will go about training for summer competitions.
Meanwhile, Nathan plans to coach, and Felicia will train and continue working at J.Crew.